World Health Organization (WHO)

Organisation mondiale de la santé (OMS)
Organización Mundial de la Salud (OMS)

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22 July 1946, New York NY (USA), on adoption of the Constitution signed by 61 states, 51 of which were also members of the United Nations. WHO Interim Commission -- Commission intérimaire de l'OMS was set up at the same time. Constitution entered into force on 7 Apr 1948, having been ratified by 26 UN member states, since which time 7th April each year is celebrated as World Health Day. First World Health Assembly met from 24 June to 24 July 1948, Geneva (Switzerland), and adopted an agreement whereby the World Health Organization, already a specialized agency established by intergovernmental agreement, was brought into relationship with the United Nations. The Interim Commission was superseded as from 1 Sep 1948. WHO is a a specialized agency of United Nations (UN) within United Nations System, linked to United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

WHO continues the movement for international cooperation in health commenced in the 19th century with the first International Sanitary Conference, 1851, and subsequent similar conferences, at which international conventions were agreed. It took over: the peace-time aspects of the work of the Health Division of United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), set up in 1943; the functions of International Office for Public Health (OIHP), set up 9 Dec 1907, Paris (France); the functions of Health Organization of the League of Nations, which had ceased to exist in 1939. World Health Declaration, adopted at the 51st Session, May 1998, to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of WHO, includes recommitment to primary health care as defined in the 'Declaration of Alma Ata', adopted at International Conference on Primary Health Care, 6-12 Sep 1978, Alma Ata (USSR), and endorsed by resolution WHA 32.30 of the 32nd World Health Assembly, May 1979.


Constitution defines health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. Article 1 of the Constitution states: 'The objective of WHO shall be the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health'. Consequent functions devolving from this aim to: (a) act as the directing and coordinating authority on international health work; (b) establish and maintain effective collaboration with the UN, specialized agencies, governmental health administrations, professional groups and other organizations as may be deemed appropriate; (c) upon request, assist governments in strengthening health services; (d) furnish appropriate technical assistance and, in emergencies, necessary aid, upon request or acceptance of governments; (e) provide or assist in providing, upon the request of the UN, health services and facilities to special groups, such as the people of trust territories; (f) establish and maintain such administrative and technical services as may be required, including epidemiological and statistical services; (g) stimulate and advance work to eradicate or control epidemic, endemic and other diseases; (h) in cooperation with other specialized agencies where necessary, promote the prevention of accidental injuries; (i) in cooperation with other specialized agencies where necessary, promote the improvement of nutrition, housing, sanitation, recreation, economic or working conditions and other aspects of environmental hygiene; (j) promote cooperation among scientific and professional groups which contribute to advancement of health; (k) propose conventions, agreements and regulations and make recommendations with respect to international health matters and perform such duties as may be assigned thereby to the Organization and are consistent with its objective; (l) promote maternal and child health and welfare and foster the ability to live harmoniously in a changing total environment; (m) foster activities in the field of mental health, especially those affecting the harmony of human relations; (n) promote and conduct research in the field of health; (o) promote improved standards of teaching and training in the health, medical and related professions; (p) in cooperation with other specialized agencies where necessary, study and report on administrative and social techniques affecting public health and medical care from preventive and curative points of view, including hospital services and social security; (q) provide information, counsel and assistance in the field of health; (r) assist in developing an informed public opinion among all peoples on matters of health; (s) establish and revise as necessary international nomenclatures of diseases, of causes of death and of public health practices; (t) standardize diagnostic procedures as necessary; (u) develop, establish and promote international standards with respect to food, biological, pharmaceutical and similar products; (v) in general, take all necessary action to attain the objective of the Organization.

Future Events

2020 Adelaide, Australia – Biennial World Conference on Injury Prevention and Safety Promotion

Past Events(2)

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'General Programme of Work (GPW)' provides the framework for activities. Biennial programme budget sets out strategic focus. Priorities 2006-2007, linked to organizational structure comprising DGR and the following work areas:

'Representatives of the Director-General (DGR)' - Representative for Health Action in Crises - represents the WHO in health issues in global emergencies and humanitarian needs; - Representative for Polio Eradication provides overall technical direction and strategic planning for management and coordination of Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI); - Representative responsible for the Commission on Intellectual Property Rights, Innovation and Public Health.

 • 1. 'Communicable Disease Prevention and Control' - works to reduce morbidity, mortality and disability due to endemic tropical diseases which concern people's health and social and economic well-being worldwide, through prevention, control and, where appropriate, eradication or elimination of selected endemic tropical diseases using, where possible, a synergetic approach taking into consideration recent Health Assembly resolutions. Diseases covered include: Buruli ulcer; dengue fever/dengue haemorrhagic fever; enteric diseases; intestinal parasitoses; leishmaniasis; schistosomiasis; trypanosomiasis; zoonoses. Aims to eradicate dracunculiasis and to eliminate leprosy, lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis and Chagas diseases at global or regional level.

 • 2. 'Communicable Disease Research' - researches, generates knowledge and improves and develops essential tools and approaches for developing countries to prevent, diagnose, treat and control neglected infectious diseases; strengthens capacity of disease-endemic countries to research the development and implementation of new and improved approaches to disease control.

 • 3. 'Epidemic Alert and Response' - detects, identifies and responds rapidly to threats to national, regional and global health security due to epidemic-prone, pandemic and emerging infectious diseases of known or unknown etiology; integrates these activities with strengthened communicable disease surveillance and response systems, national health information systems and public health programmes and services.

 • 4. 'Malaria' - Millennium Development Goal 6, target 8 aims to halve the incidence of malaria by 2010 compared to 2000 and reduce it further by 2015. WHO facilitates access of populations at risk to effective treatment of malaria and promotes application of preventive measures against malaria for these populations; it builds capacity for malaria control, strengthens malaria-surveillance systems and monitors and evaluates control.

 • 5. 'Tuberculosis' - aims for every country to reach global control targets of 70% detection and 85% treatment success rates and to sustain this achievement so as to halve TB prevalence and associated death rates by 2015; expands implementation of DOTS strategy and strengthens tuberculosis control, including strategies and policies on tuberculosis/HIV co-infection and multidrug-resistant tuberculosis and increased involvement of communities, health-care providers, nongovernmental organizations and corporate partners, increased country support and nurturing of the Stop TB Partnership; strengthens surveillance, monitoring and evaluation; promotes and facilitates research on new diagnostic tools, drugs and vaccines.

 • 6. 'HIV/AIDS' - aims to effectively control HIV/AIDS and mitigate its socioeconomic impact by accelerating prevention and providing universal access to HIV/AIDS care, including antiretroviral therapy, thus contributing to achieving health-related Millennium Development Goals; rapidly expanding access to treatment and care and accelerating prevention and strengthening health systems to make health-sector response to HIV/AIDS more effective and comprehensive.

 • 7. 'Surveillance, Prevention and Management of Chronic, Noncommunicable Diseases' - aims to: build surveillance systems; reduce exposure to major risk factors; help health systems respond appropriately to rising premature mortality and morbidity related to chronic, noncommunicable diseases.

 • 8. 'Health Promotion' - aims to: improve equity in health, reduce health risks, promote healthy lifestyles and settings and respond to underlying determinants of health; develop and implement multisectoral public policies for health, integrated gender- and age-sensitive approaches facilitating community empowerment; promote life-long health, self-care and health protection in cooperation with relevant national and international partners.

 • 9. 'Mental Health and Substance Abuse' - aims to: ensure that mental health and the consequences of substance abuse are taken fully into account in considerations of health and development; formulate and implement cost-effective responses to mental and neurological disorders and those related to substance use; promote mental health.

 • 10. 'Tobacco' - works to protect present and future generations from health, social, environmental and economic consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke, by continuous and substantial reduction in use of tobacco and exposure to tobacco smoke - puts effective tobacco-control measures in place and provides support to Member States in implementing the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

 • 11. 'Nutrition' - promotes life-long healthy diet and optimal nutrition, particularly women and children, through implementing, monitoring and evaluating national policies and programmes, contributing to achievement of Millennium Development Goals.

 • 12. 'Health and Environment' - works to: achieve safe, sustainable and health-enhancing human environments, protected from biological, chemical and physical hazards and secure from effects of global and local environmental threats; ensure effective incorporation of health dimensions into national policies and action for environment and health, including legal and regulatory frameworks governing management of the human environment, and into regional and global policies affecting health and environment.

 • 13. 'Food Safety' - works to: reduce the health effect of food contamination; reform and strengthen existing food-safety systems so as to reduce foodborne disease; enable the health sector, in cooperation with other sectors and partners, to assess, communicate and manage foodborne risks effectively and promptly.

 • 14. 'Violence, Injuries and Disabilities' - formulates and implements cost-effective, age- and gender-specific strategies to prevent and mitigate consequences of violence and unintentional injuries and disabilities; promotes and strengthens rehabilitation services.

 • 15. 'Reproductive Health' - through primary health-care systems, aims to make reproductive health accessible to all individuals of appropriate ages no later than the year 2015; aims to provide the widest possible range of safe and effective reproductive and sexual health services across the health system and integrate them into primary health care.

 • 16. 'Making Pregnancy Safer' - aims to: achieve the Millennium Development Goal for maternal health by reducing maternal mortality by 75% from 1990 levels by the year 2015; contribute to lowering infant mortality rate to below 35 per 100,000 live births in all countries by 2015 by reducing perinatal mortality; strengthen national efforts to implement cost-effective interventions so as to provide all women and newborn infants with continuing care throughout pregnancy, childbirth and the postnatal period.

 • 17. 'Gender, Women and Health' - works to: achieve health equity by promoting equal access to, and use of, quality health services by women and men, girls and boys; integrate gender considerations into health policies, programmes and research so as to address issues of gender inequality and inequity and to alleviate their impact on health.

 • 18. 'Child and Adolescent Health' - reduce by two thirds the rate of infant and child mortality by the year 2015 from the 1990 rate; promote physical and mental health of adolescents; reduce by 25% HIV prevalence among young people aged 15 to 24 years by the year 2010; enable countries to pursue evidence-based strategies in order to reduce health risks, morbidity and mortality along the life course; promote health and development of newborn infants, children and adolescents; create mechanisms to measure the impact of those strategies.

 • 19. 'Immunization and Vaccine Development' - protect all people at risk against vaccine-preventable diseases; promote development of new vaccines and innovation in biologicals and immunization-related technologies; ensure greater impact of immunization services, as a component of health delivery systems; accelerate control of high-priority vaccine-preventable diseases; ensure that full humanitarian and economic benefits of such initiatives are realized.

 • 20. 'Essential Medicines' - help save lives and improve health by: framing, implementing and monitoring national medicine policies aiming at increasing equitable access to essential medicines, particularly for high-priority health problems and for poor and disadvantaged populations and at ensuring the quality, safety, efficacy and rational use of medicines, including traditional medicines; developing international standards and supporting implementation of effective regulation in countries; improving rational use of medicines by health professionals and consumers.

 • 21. 'Essential Health Technologies' - strengthen ability of national health systems to resolve health problems through use of essential health technologies; establish safe and reliable services that apply essential health technologies and use biological products through adoption of basic operational frameworks covering policy, quality, safety, access and use.

 • 22. 'Policy-Making for Health in Development' - maximize positive impact of processes related to socioeconomic development, poverty reduction and globalization on health outcomes; raise awareness and advocate the role of better health, particularly of the poor, in achieving overall development objectives; bring ethical, legal and human rights norms into the formulation of national and international health-related programmes, policies and laws; maintain and further secure centrality both of health to a wide range of development processes at national, regional and international levels, and of ethical, economic and human-rights analysis to achievement of just and coherent policies and laws at national, regional and international levels.

 • 23. 'Health System Policies and Service Delivery' - improve availability, quality, equity and efficiency of health services by strengthening their links with the broader public health functions and by strengthening governance, organization and management of health systems; strengthen health-system leadership and capability for effective policy-making in countries; enhance planning and provision of health services that are of good technical quality, responsive to users, contribute to improved equity through greater coverage and make better use of available resources.

 • 24. 'Human Resources for Health' - improve the performance of health systems through strengthening development and management of the health workforce in order to achieve greater equity, coverage, access and quality of care; contribute to managing effectively and creatively the interaction between the supply and demand for health workers.

 • 25. 'Health Financing and Social Protection' - develop systems of health financing that are equitable, efficient, protect against financial risk, promote social protection and can be sustained over time; formulate health-financing strategies that ensure universal coverage and are based on principles of equity, efficiency and social protection, and on the best available information and knowledge; develop capacity to obtain key information and to use it to improve health financing and organizational arrangements as part of national policy.

 • 26. 'Health Information, Evidence and Research Policy' - maximize potential of health systems to improve health and to respond to health needs in a way that is equitable, effective and efficient on the basis of sound health information and scientific knowledge; improve availability, quality, and use of health information at country level strengthen evidence base at regional and global levels in order to monitor and reduce inequalities in health; develop health-research systems, build research capacity and use research findings to strengthen national health systems.

 • 27. 'Emergency Preparedness and Response' - reduce avoidable loss of life, burden of disease and disability among populations affected by crises, emergencies and disasters; optimize health at times of post-crisis transition; contribute to recovery and development; develop and implement policies, programmes and partnerships that increase capacity to prepare, respond and mitigate the risks to health during crises; support recovery and sustainable development.

 • 28. 'WHO's Core Presence in Countries' - provide effective support to, and ensure relevance and effectiveness of WHO's work and accountability to Member States for reaching their national health and development goals and ensure; allocate technical and financial resources accordingly; ensure that country inputs guide WHO policy, technical and advocacy work; contribute to achievement of the health-related Millennium Development Goals through an adequate core presence of WHO at country level.

 • 29. 'Knowledge Management and Information Technology' - foster, equip and support an environment that encourages the generation, sharing, effective application and dissemination of knowledge in Member States and within the Organization in order to promote health, using appropriate knowledge management and information and communication technology.

 • 30. 'Planning, Resource Coordination and Oversight' - apply consistently across the Organization the principles of results-based management and related processes, namely, strategic and operational planning, resource planning and coordination, performance monitoring, quality assurance and evaluation, in support of WHO's leadership role in international health and its programme development and operations; implement fully functional Organization-wide systems and mechanisms for results-based management that provide effective support for WHO's accountability policy and country focus.

 • 31. 'Human Resources Management in WHO' - apply best practice in all aspects of human resources management at all organizational levels; provide the strategic direction, policies and procedures necessary to ensure that human resources services are delivered in a timely and effective manner.

 • 32. 'Budget and Financial Management' - apply best practice in all aspects of budget and financial management, combined with integrity and transparency, at all organizational levels with a sound internal control framework, including relevant financial reporting at all levels, both internally and externally.

 • 33. 'Infrastructure and Logistics' - apply best practice in all aspects of infrastructure and logistics support at all organizational levels; frame an enabling policy and create an institutional environment to support timely implementation of WHO's programmes in Member States.

 • 34. 'Governing Bodies' - ensure sound policy on international public health and development that responds to the needs of Member States; assure good governance of WHO through efficient preparation and conduct of regional and global governing body sessions and effective policy-making processes.

 • 35. 'External Relations' - ensure health goals are incorporated in overall development policies and that resources for health are increased; negotiate, sustain and expand partnerships for health globally; strengthen WHO's collaboration with intergovernmental and governmental bodies, civil society organizations, the private sector and foundations; secure the Organization's resource base.

 • 36. 'Direction' - advance global public health and contribute to attainment of the Millennium Development Goals, particularly directing efforts at country level.

Agreements and other instruments adopted by WHO:

 • Regulations no 1 Regarding Nomenclature of Diseases and Causes of Death;

 • Regulations Regarding Nomenclature with Respect to Diseases and Causes of Death;

 • International Sanitary Regulations, 1951;

 • WHO nomenclature regulations, 1967;

 • International Health Regulations, 1969;

 • International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes;

 • Convention on Assistance in the Case of Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency;

 • Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident;

 • Ljubljana Charter on Reforming Health Care in Europe.


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Relations with Inter-Governmental Organizations

Relations with 147 inter-governmental organizations.
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Relations with Non-Governmental Organizations

Relations with 206 non-governmental organizations.
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Members in 194 countries
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Type I Classification

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Type II Classification

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Subjects *

  • Amenities
    • Living Conditions
  • Health Care
    • Health
    • WHO Bodies
  • International Relations
    • United Nations

UN Sustainable Development Goals **

GOAL 1: No PovertyGOAL 2: Zero HungerGOAL 3: Good Health and Well-beingGOAL 4: Quality EducationGOAL 5: Gender EqualityGOAL 6: Clean Water and SanitationGOAL 7: Affordable and Clean EnergyGOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic GrowthGOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and InfrastructureGOAL 10: Reduced InequalityGOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and CommunitiesGOAL 12: Responsible Consumption and ProductionGOAL 13: Climate ActionGOAL 14: Life Below WaterGOAL 15: Life on LandGOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong InstitutionsGOAL 17: Partnerships to achieve the Goal



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* Subject classification is derived from the organization names and aims.
** UN SDGs are linked to the subject classification.

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